Grappling with a spike in Covid-19 cases, Punjab now plans to prompt people of the state to walk in at any testing centre and get tested. Also, free testing kits have been given to chemist shops in the state too to boost sample collection. The state has a capacity of conducting over 20,000 tests daily. The mounting Covid death rate in the state has been blamed on delayed testing. Punjab hopes that aggressive testing can turn the tide and help save lives.
Talking to The Indian Express, Health Minister Balbir Singh said: “We have 648 government and private testing centres, each providing a walk-in facility for the testing. We are asking everyone to test, test and test. We want to save lives.
We have been observing that people are not forthcoming. They are delaying testing waiting for the symptoms to disappear. We are now launching an aggressive campaign in this direction.”
On Thursday, the government also decided to provide free kits to chemists, private labs and hospitals, who could collect samples from home or provide it over the counter. These outlets would be allowed to charge nominal manpower cost not exceeding Rs 250 by private doctors and hospitals. The decision was taken at a review meeting of the government chaired by Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan.
The Health Minister said that Punjab has enough infrastructure and testing facilities that anyone experiencing even the mildest symptom can walk in at the nearest centre. “I am going to districts from Friday onwards. I will be personally requesting people to come and get tested,” he said.
The state has as many as 602 testing centres in government facilities and 45 in private labs and hospitals.
“People do not need to bother whether the lab has the facility to test or not. We have an arrangement that they can give a sample and the report with reach them. That is why we have set up so many testing centres,” said the Health Minister.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is in self-quarantine, released an audio message Thursday, urging residents of Punjab to get themselves tested.
In Punjab, maximum testing centres are in Gurdaspur district (100), followed by 55 in Jalandhar, 49 in Amritsar, 39 in Ludhiana, 33 in Hoshiarpur, 31 in Fatehgarh Sahib, 30 in Ropar, 27 in Sangrur, and 26 each in Patiala, Moga and Tarn Taran.
Among other districts, Faridkot has 19 centres, Ferozepur has 18, and there are 17 testing centres each in Kapurthala and Pathankot, 14 in Mansa and 11 each in Mohali and Nawanshahr. Ludhiana has maximum 11 centres in private facility followed by Mohali at 10, Jalandhar at 7, while Amritsar has 3 private testing centres and Patiala has one such centre.
“We have a capacity of 25,000 tests everyday including RT-PCR, Rapid Antigen Test and Trunat test,” said Sidhu.
The government has fixed a maximum of Rs 2,400 for RT-PCR test and reduced Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) cost from Rs 1,000 to Rs 700 inclusive of GST and other taxes. It has been left for the private labs to fix rates for collection of samples from houses. ICMR approved 45 private labs are doing Covid-19 testing in the state. Apart from this 603 government hospitals in the state are doing free Covid-19 testing.
Health teams, meanwhile, have been facing a challenge as several villages are protesting against collection of samples. “We have to counter this. It is turning into a grave situation. Youth in their 20s is also dying. It is all due to late reporting. It is a fatal disease and the solution lies in early testing. Our emphasis is now on the testing only.” said Sidhu.
Punjab has till now tested 11,01,912 people in the state. On an average, over 20,000 samples are being taken daily.
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